Ethiopia. The Afar Somali Region (formerly Ogaden) interregional conflict breaks out.
April 2nd 2021. Fierce fighting broke out in the region bordering Tigray: the state of Afar (Qafar in Amharic). The clash between Afar regional defense forces and Somali Region (formerly Ogaden) defense forces. The four outbreaks of civil-ethnic war in Ethiopia: Tigray, Afar Somali Region, Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia, clearly demonstrate that `the problem is not limited to the Tigray region alone, so a global approach is needed to solve current political crisis and the civil wars that is involving all of Ethiopia.
Friday 2 April. Fierce fighting suddenly broke out in the region bordering Tigray: the state of Afar (Qafar in Amharic). The clash sees the Afar regional defense forces opposing Somali Region (formerly Ogaden) defense forces, supported by Somali Issa militia from Djibouti. “Somali Region regional forces attacked the Afar areas of Haruk and Gewane using heavy weapons including machine guns and RPGs (Russian portable rocket launcher most used in African conflicts NDT). Children and women were killed while they slept. “ Reports the Deputy Commissioner of Police for the Afar Region: Ahemd Humed.
The clashes lasted until Tuesday 6 April. According to the first reports provided by the Afar military and administrative authorities, at least 130 soldiers and civilians were killed following clashes with Somali Region forces including Feisal Garle, a senior regional police officer of the Somali Region. Hundreds of houses destroyed and at least 5,000 people have fled the conflict zones, becoming internally displaced people at charity and popular solidarity mercy.
The attack on Afar border towns was followed by a counter attack by Afar forces and local militia named Aguguma in four Kebele (municipalities) of the Somali Region: Dawadid, Geurean, Kelele and Denlehe of the City Zone, according to Alibedel Mohammed , head of the Somali Region Communications Office.
Even if the news are confused at the moment, it seems that the official cause of the conflict is a territorial dispute. Two months ago, the Somali Region unilaterally withdrew from a 2014 agreement that transferred some mixed Somali — Afar municipalities to the jurisdiction of the Afar state. After withdrawing from the agreement, the Somali Region began to claim all the Afar territories where there is a large Somali population. In recent months, attempts have been made several times to resolve the dispute peacefully. The diplomatic attempts have now failed. The blood has flowed and, according to Abyssinian culture, the victims must be avenged at all costs.
The real war has moved to social media. Afar and Somali online activists have flooded social media platforms with conflicting narratives and messages of pure ethnic hatred. The worrying trend of spreading messages of ethnic violence is the common denominator of many online activists, especially Amhara. The messages of these activists against their Tigrinya brothers contain the same communicative violence as the messages spread by Juvenal Habyarimana’s HutuPower genocidal militias during the months preceding Rwandan 1994 genocide. The passivity of the federal government that avoids any moderation and does not intervene remains incomprehensible against the most of these online extremist activists.
An Ethiopian aid worker reports, under anonymity, to the national newspaper Addis Standard, an explanation of the conflict. According to him, the recent attacks of violence are politically motivated. “They began when Somali residents of the city of Garba Issa, Undhufo and Adayti protested the decision taken by the National Electoral Council of Ethiopia (NEBE NDT) to cancel the recent elections of the 8 border municipalities also contested by Afar state. Afar special forces have started a brutal persecution against the Somalis of these municipalities and also those who live in other cities of the Afar. The attack was launched to defend Somali civilians “.
This (entirely personal) version of the reasons for the conflict is echoed by the Somali Region authorities in a statement released on 6 April. “After the announcement of the NEBE, the regional state of Afar has intensified civilians of Somali origin civilians repression. On March 28, 2021, the Special Forces of the Afar Regional State, in collaboration with the Afari Separatists (known locally as Uguguma) carried out large-scale attacks on four kebeles in the Somali region. We have been forced to respond to put an end to this violence. “
African Union diplomatic circles agree that the origin of the conflict is political. Someone is using ethnicity to wreak havoc in their favor. Who? Some regional observers suspect federal government involvement. The passivity shown in intervening with the contenders and disarming the respective militias, perpetrators of the violence against civilians, has been interpreted as a “punishment” to the Afar state, suspected to let it pass at its border with the Tigray, TPLF supplies necessary to continue the civil war. Other regional observers explain the government’s passivity with the lack of men in both army and police. “The majority of the federal army and police is engaged in the ùigray conflict, in the undeclared war on the borders with Sudan, and in Oromia. Addis Ababa was unable to intervene in Afar to stop the fighting due to a lack of men ”, explains an Amhara activist in defense of human rights.
The Afar — Somali Region conflict is the fourth crisis that is tearing the country apart. In addition to Tigray conflict, there is the conflict between the Oromo Liberation Front (and its military wing: Oromo Liberation Army) against federal and Eritrean soldiers and the ethnic conflict in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, hosting the mega dam GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance). The country is moving towards a Yugoslavian scenario with the federal government increasingly weak and at the mercy of the nationalist leadership Amhara and the Eritrean dictator Isiaias Afwerki.
To the internal conflicts it should be added the inability to peacefully resolve the dispute over the exploitation of the waters of the Nile and the mega dam GERD. The mediation of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, in Kinshasa, failed due to the unilateral moves of Ethiopia. While its delegates were discussing with their Egyptian and Sudanese counterparts in Kinshasa to find a compromise on this sensitive issue that threatens to spark the first water war in Africa, the federal government kicked off the start of the second phase of the filling the water tank of the GERD.
“Without a new approach to negotiations, Ethiopia will impose the fait accompli of the GERD dam, putting the entire population of the region in grave danger,” said Sudanese foreign minister Mariam al-Sadig al-Mahdi. “This Ethiopian intransigence requires Sudan to consider all possible options to protect its security and its citizens. Sudan understands Ethiopia’s internal problems and has been patient for a long time. We have accepted tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees, but now we must focus on safeguarding our national interests, “says the Sudanese Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources.” The Ethiopian position once again reveals Ethiopia’s unwillingness to negotiate in good faith “, says the Minister of Foreign Egyptian.
If Congolese President Tshisekedi is unable to persuade the Ethiopian government to participate frankly in the talks by abandoning the current double game, the chances for a devastating regional conflict increase. Sudanese sources report border clashes between the Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean armies in the Umm Rakuba area (Sudan). The news was confirmed by the General Staff of Khartoum which claims to have rejected an Ethiopian offensive which had the objective of occupying the disputed Sudanese territories and object of the imperialist aims of the far-right Amhara leadership.
A report published by the American cooperation agency: USAID disproves the myth that the majority of violence and crimes against civilians were carried out by Eritrean troops as the federal government of Addis Ababa tries to have you believe. According to USAID, 44% of civilian violence in Tigray (including collective rape and other sexual violence against women) is carried out by Ethiopian federal soldiers. Eritrean soldiers would be responsible for only 33% of recorded and verified crimes, while the remaining 23% of crimes are the work of the Fano Amhara militias.
European Union envoy: Pekka Haavisto arrived in Ethiopia yesterday. After meeting with the Ethiopian president, Pekka Haavisto expressed her deep concern about the violence against women in Tigray. He added that the EU calls for an end to all violence and reiterated the importance of investigations into human rights violations and accountability. The UN said the humanitarian situation in Tigray remains very serious, threatening to destabilize the Horn of Africa. For the EU, helping to stop human rights abuses in Tigray and restoring peace to Ethiopia is a top priority.
Unfortunately, the position of the European Union remains incomplete. The four outbreaks of civil-ethnic war in Ethiopia: Tigray, Afar Somali Region, Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia, clearly demonstrate that the problem is not limited to the Tigray region alone, so a global approach is needed to solve current political crisis and the civil wars that is involving all of Ethiopia.
On the front in Tigray, the third offensive launched by the Eritreans at Easter also seems to run aground. The resistance of the TPLF forces managed to block the Eritrean perhaps beyond Adigrad and to launch a counter-offensive in the areas adjacent to the city of Shire. Asmara and Addis Ababa are sending thousands of soldiers to reinforce the units present in Shire engaged in fierce fighting against the TPLF. The German newspaper Deutsche Welle reports testimony of a massacre of 125 civilians killed a few days ago by the Ethiopian forces in the Maykinetal district, in the central area of Tigray.